Updated on 09.15.14

It’s Time to Stop (or Alter) a Christmas Gift Exchange

Trent Hamm

Each Christmas, a lot of people find themselves in gift exchanges that they don’t really want to participate in. They end up buying gifts for people that they don’t have a close relationship with. They’re obligated to spend more money than they’d like on certain gifts. Sometimes, they’re guilted into it by the expectations of others at their Christmas parties.

No more. This is the year we declare our financial independence from unwanted gift exchanges.

Step #1: Decide if You Really Want Out

When faced with a big pile of bills and debt, it can be easy to tell ourselves that we’re going to cut down on gift-giving next year. We think about all of the gifts we bought, think of the ones that seemed like the biggest stretches to our budget and our personal lives, and begin to feel something negative about that gift. Discomfort. Resentment. Annoyance. Disgust.

Yet, quite often, we also like the gift exchange process with people we care about, even if it’s with people we don’t see all that often.

It can be a real emotional conundrum, and it’s one that deserves some careful thought. Do you really want out of the whole picture? It’s quite possible – and quite justifiable – that you do, but any gift you gave in previous years deserves some reflection this year.

I’m in two different gift exchanges that have given me pause in the last year. In each case, it’s a gift exchange with extended family members that I don’t see too much during the year. We’ve made the decision to get out of one of them, but after some deep reflection, we decided to remain in the other one, though we are going to suggest some changes to them.

Step #2: Come Up With the Alternative You Would Prefer

Most likely, you’re going to come up with some mixed feelings about some of these gift exchanges. I’d encourage you to consider alternative options that do not devalue the real value of the holiday season – spending time with people you care about. Here are several such options.

A “secret Santa” exchange

Instead of everyone giving a gift to everyone, simply draw names in some fashion and have each person give a single gift to another person.

A “handmade” or “thoughtful” gift exchange

Instead of buying stuff, have a gift exchange where items of more personal value are given. There are lots of options here – and the more creative your family is, the better. You can agree to give each other handmade items. You can agree to give each other “coupons” for personal favors later on (like a night of babysitting for a harried parent or two hours of cleaning for an elderly person). You can give each other “thank you” cards, handwritten, that express thanks for what that person has meant to you in life and in the last year.

A potluck dinner

Instead of having a gift exchange, just have a big potluck dinner during the holiday season. Don’t make it about stuff – make it about family. I think this is perhaps the best default option for a lot of families and other groups.

A volunteer afternoon

Instead of getting together to give each other stuff, perhaps you could all spend a few hours doing something like working in a soup kitchen or building a Habitat for Humanity house. It gets you together and creates something worthwhile for the community. This is a great suggestion to replace an office Christmas party.

Step #3: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Once you know which exchanges you want to get out of or alter, it’s time to communicate.

Some people will arrange this by email. Others will use Facebook. Still others will do it over the phone. It has a lot to do with the people you’re dealing with.

Here are two different email templates that you can use and alter to your heart’s content.

Hey Sally,

I’m looking forward to seeing you all at Christmas dinner this year!

With the economy, though, I was thinking of suggesting that we don’t do a gift exchange this year like we’ve done in the past. Instead, what do you think about just doing a “secret Santa” exchange with the adults and a second one with all of the kids? That way, we all have a gift to open, but it won’t leave any of us in financial trouble.

Let me know what you think!


That one would work well with siblings and close cousins. For an office exchange, you might want to try something like this:

Hello all,

Instead of the usual office gift exchange this year, let’s put aside a Saturday afternoon in December and have all of us spend a few hours doing some volunteer work? It’d help us get in touch with the people that truly need help in life, plus it would give some excellent public relations to our firm.

What do you all think of this idea?


Who should I send such an email to?

If there’s a person or two who are obviously organizing the Christmas exchanges based on past experience, contact them first and see what they think. Make sure you include an easy-to-choose alternative in your email.

If there is no central person (particularly if the exchange just involves a small group), contact everyone in the group. Do it individually – some people may feel very nervous about saying that they want out to the whole group. Give them an avenue to tell you how they feel about it one-on-one.

Shouldn’t I call people instead?

It entirely depends on your relationship with the people involved. For some relationships, email would work best. For others, Facebook. For still others, a phone call would be the best route.

What if no one agrees with me?

You’ll have to make your own decision when it comes to that point. You can simply ask to drop out of the exchange, or you can just shrug your shoulders and go along with the flow of it. If you’re really uncomfortable, though, just ask to leave the exchange.

Step #4: Stick to Your Guns

Once the decision has been made to alter the gift exchange, you might feel some regret, particularly when the Christmas season comes around. Don’t. This one’s worth sticking to your guns on, especially if you’re still actually spending time with your family during the holiday season.

Instead, focus on why you did this in the first place. Recall the emotions and thoughts that led you to the decision to leave the exchange. Keep them in mind.

Most importantly, enjoy the camaraderie. In the end, the value of seeing family during the holidays isn’t found in the gifts. It’s found in the people and the time spent together.

Good luck!

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  1. LoriBeth says:

    I buy gifts for my family and that’s pretty much it. Last year, I got my brother a canning set and he was thrilled!. He didn’t give me anything. I didn’t care. But this summer he’s used his canning set and given me several jars of produce from his garden. To me, that’s perfectly worth it. If I come across something that is USEFUL for someone in my family, I get it for them. I don’t waste my time or money getting something they don’t need or won’t use. I’ve quit with the buying presents for someone just to say, “Oh, *person* has a present”. I made a calendar last year for mom and dad with old family pictures, everybody loved it, and after catching a coupon for Kodak’s website, I think I paid 5.99 for it. So, price doesn’t really matter. Take time and make a gift personal and useful and it will be appreciated.

  2. “Instead of the usual office gift exchange this year, let’s put aside a Saturday afternoon in December and have all of us spend a few hours doing some volunteer work?”

    That’s a statement, not a question. ;-)

    I opted out of gift giving last year and I plan to do it again this year. I have everything I could possibly ever need and nearly everything I want. I prefer spending time with family and friends and gathering around a great homecooked meal than to spend all morning opening presents that are often less than appreciated.

    Not only that but I am off the hook for trying to find the “perfect” gift for so-and-so who I haven’t seen since last Christmas. That puts a lot of pressure on a person because you want to get just the right gift but you don’t know where to start.

    Good article and great timing. It gives everyone lots of time to get the ball rolling.

  3. Kristia says:

    All of my extended families do some version of the secret santa exchange or give gifts to charity. However, my real cost for the holidays is in time and travel. One year I had over 10 Christmases. Between women’s only Christmas Teas to each extended family (including step families), three immediate family gatherings, to work, to friends it’s too much. Each of these events requires some gift and many require a pot-luck contribution or hostess gift. So while each one is small they add up really fast. In the past I’ve not attended some only to have it blow up in my face a few weeks later. Anyone have advice on how to tell people you won’t be coming to an event? Especially telling people who take it as a personal attack that you wouldn’t want to celebrate the holidays with them.

  4. Kathy says:

    Last year at work, instead of the usual Secret Santa, we all decided to take the money we would have spent on Secret Santa and take up a collection to help out a very sick co-worker so her kids could have a Christmas. I like this idea a lot, and I hope that this year, we could do something similar to either help out other co-workers or perhaps donate it to charity or something like that.

  5. Johanna says:

    An alternative to a “secret Santa” exchange is a “grab bag” exchange: Each person brings one present that would be appropriate for (almost) anyone else in the group, and people choose presents randomly. There are various sets of rules that let you swap the presents around if you happen to get one that’s not appropriate for you.

    Usually, the gifts are fairly inexpensive ($10-20 is a good price range), and since you’re not shopping for a particular person, you’re not under so much pressure to find the perfect gift. This has worked well in various groups that I’ve been a part of.

    Also, in the first sample email: If you don’t want to suggest that Christmas shopping is leaving you in financial trouble, you could focus instead on the fact that shopping for only one present will save everyone a lot of time.

  6. EllenB says:

    Things came to a head several years ago when we and our children/spouses exchanged gift cards of equal value from the same store. Except for the grandchildren who get a small check for their savings accounts, we now all donate to a local charity that helps families. Isn’t that part of the reason for the season?

  7. Breanne says:

    An alternative that we use at work, which I love, is to pull names from a hat Secret Santa style, and then purchase a gift for that person based on what we imagine they would have liked as a child. We exchange the gifts, and then donate them all to the Women In Need Society.

    This local organization then organizes all the toys by age and size, and then invites low income mothers to come and “shop” for gifts for their children for Christmas. Each mother receives a ‘ticket’, free of charge, for one large toy and one small toy for each child.

    It’s a great program for the moms, in that it lets them pick out gifts specifically for their kids — and its a great option for us, because we get to have some fun with our gift giving, and ultimately know that the gifts are going to kids who will love them and who otherwise would have gone without.

  8. Mike says:

    Last year we suggested to my mom and sisters that we do a Secret Santa style exchange instead of buying tons of presents for each other. We were met with fierce resistance and caved. I’d like to at least set a limit because things can get out of control.

  9. I cut back on the mandatory holiday gift-giving for everyone but my grandchildren a few years ago. I was tired of buying things that my grown children didn’t really need simply because it was that time of year.

    Last year, I bought my daughter a camera in January, my son-in-law a beer-making kit in March and my other daughter and son-in-law a grill and patio furniture in August. That’s what they wanted, when they wanted it. Merry Christmas!

  10. L Castro says:

    Very good Article, Will share it!

  11. Kristen says:

    Several years ago all the adults in the family stopped exchanging gifts. We decided to put all our money together and buy much needed supplies for our local Ronald McDonald house which provided a home away from while their children are in the hospital. We have stayed their both times when our daughters were born. They run strictly on donations for household supplies like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies. Our money goes to much better use at the RMH than giving the same photo coaster set over and over!

  12. Another Katie says:

    LoriBeth, thanks for sharing about giving your brother a gift and not caring about getting one back. My husband’s family is very good at the unstructered gift giving, and I love it! There is no expectation as to how much will be spent or even that a gift we will be given. Gifts are given out of a desire to give and thankfully received. Sometimes we give or receive expensive presents, inexpensive presents, homemade presents, presents for individuals and presents for entire families. I like it this way because I think if a gift is required or especially if a specific type of gift is required, it’s not really gift giving.

    Mike, I’m sorry you meet with resistance. My family does a secret santa, and I must admit I opposed it and still don’t particularly like it. I just don’t like feeling like I’m not allowed to buy my family presents. Perhaps you can try some of the other things Trent suggests. Although instead of suggesting that everyone do homemade gifts or coupons or whatever, just let people know that you would like to cut back and you will be giving homemade gifts, coupons, less expensive gifts or no gifts at all and let them decide accordingly how they are going to do gifts this year. If they demand that you give them gifts and they be a particular type/cost, maybe when things are less heated you can have a discussion about how rude this is.

    Trent, thanks for not suggesting that people impose their gift exchange ideas on those that are not interested. I have often seen suggestions that the frugal person should persevere in making everyone do a secret santa. It always makes me cringe.

  13. J says:

    For some people (and I count myself in this camp), the “cost” of the time necessary to make handmade gifts makes that option very unappealing. Just setting a spending limit can achieve the same result for those who want to reign in dollar costs, and it can force creativity. My sister is in college, and thus on a very limited budget; she started giving magazine subscriptions as gifts. She buys several at once, so she gets a discount on each, and the gift lasts all year. I thought that was a great idea.

  14. Hope D says:

    For the last few years I have given photos to my family for Christmas. I usually borrow an old photo my father has, something from his or my mother’s childhood. My husband,who is a photographer, retouches the photo. Photos usually have degrade a little over time. We will then have 5x7s made. I buy inexpensive but nice frames and put the pictures in. My brothers and sisters are always happy. My father is afraid to loan out some pictures, so we bring our laptop and scanner. My mother’s parents died when she was a child. She has no pictures of her parents. I am trying to locate some pictures through her surviving siblings. If I can find some pictures, it will be an awesome gift to her and all my family. She hasn’t seen her parents, or even a picture in over 60 years.

  15. Annie Jones says:

    Our extended families on both sides gave up gift exchanges a few years ago and we couldn’t be happier about our decision.

    Within our immediate family, we buy gifts for our granddaughter (who lives with us), and one gift each for our granddaughter to give to her mom and step-dad (my daughter and SIL).

    For ourselves, we usually each go out and splurge on an item or two we’ve been wanting but have been putting off buying for one reason or another. We also give a gift to our granddaughter’s homeroom teacher and one to my husband’s boss. That’s the extent of our list. Very simple and not very expensive.

  16. Hope D says:

    I think it would be really fun to do a cookie exchange at work. I would love it coupled with a potluck party. I think that would be great.

    I had a boss, the greatest ever, give me a soap dish for Christmas. It was a cheap plastic swan from The Dollar Store. He left the tag on, and it cost a $1. He thought at the last minute we, the employees, were doing a gift exchange. We weren’t. As I said, He was the greatest boss ever though.

  17. Larabara says:

    I only buy something for my immediate family, and then I buy something that I know that they need. For everyone else, I give zucchini bread.

    Every spring, I plant several zucchini plants in my garden. By summer, I’m bombarded with zucchini, so I grate them and freeze them. At Christmastime, I thaw the zucchini and make my famous zucchini bread for my extended family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Zucchini is very expensive in the winter, but by using my summer supply, I save a lot of money at Christmas. This way I can give a Christmas present to lots of people without going broke.

  18. Thank you for this article. You can see by the number of comments that this is a topic on everyones mind. For our extended family, we buy T-shirts with a new saying about the “McLaughlin” family. Like “It’s a Mclaughlin Thing, You wouldn’t understand”. These t-shirts are a big hit and everyone loves the. You could even make your own so it would be cheaper. This has saved us countless hours over the years and has become a real tradition.

  19. Tryingoutwest says:

    Have a white elephant holiday party! It’s fun, and the best part is you get to get rid of some old junk. Google “white elephant party” to get the rules, but it’s basically a gift exchange where people intentionally bring a silly piece of junk from home (ugly decoration, wall-mounted singing fish, stupid gag t-shirt someone bought you). We do one every year and it’s always hilarious, and totally free, and it is the highlight of our holiday party.

  20. Jackie says:

    My extended family used to draw names for Christmas. My grandmother died last November and with her illness leading up to her death, we all sort of forgot have the drawing. Instead, we decided to collect donations for the shelter where my grandmother used to volunteer. With more than 50 of us contributing, we filled 3 pick up trucks with old clothes and household items. It’s a new tradition that we’ll keep up.

  21. Kathryn says:

    Frankly, gifts & gift giving/receiving seems to be a very emotional thing. Sometimes i think as adults we are trying to “make up” for the deficits we had as children.

    My husband’s family has done variations on the “Secret Santa” thing for many years. They have bring a gag gift attached to a gift card & do a funny exchange, for the adults. It is fun & funny, but i still have issues with it. It is part of a big family night of pot luck or a simple meal (tho usually something i can’t eat like lasagna).

    For the children there are no limits & the amount of loot (& crap) those kids get every year astounds me. I can’t imagine that the kids even begin to appreciate it. (My husband & i haven’t been blessed with children.) Of course, part of the problem with all this excess for me is that NONE of us need anything. My husband’s family are all quite well-to-do & are very affluent.

    A couple of years ago i suggested to one of the aunts that this was all rather overkill & too much & that the children might learn more from something else (in my best diplomatic style). I suggested that we cut back on the gifts & use the money to buy a cow for a family (in the purchase an animal for a 3rd World family) or adopt a family in need in the community or something along that line. The aunt responded that she & her husband already do that & some of the other (older generation) couples do as well.

    Well, i’m glad that they do that, but it isn’t teaching the children anything whatsoever.

    We, of course, have the option of participating in the gag gift/gift card game. Once we didn’t participate at all & gave a goat to some family instead. Another year we chose to do one for both of us, rather than each of us receiving a gift.

    My own family does give gifts to everyone, but they are usually more simple things like home made jams & jellies, or an apron, a home made Christmas ornament. Last year i made scarves & hats for my sister’s kids (tho that wasn’t inexpensive).

    I like the idea of getting together & helping another family or the Habitat for Humanity or something along that line, but i don’t think i’ll make headway in getting my husband’s family to do that. I think it sad, because while the economy has hit us some, we are among the ones least effected & i think it would be good for us all (but especially the children) to see what other families are actually having to face. We are rich by comparison.

    All the excess of that family at Christmas disturbs me.

  22. Mike says:

    @Another Katie,

    I do enjoy the gift-giving but its just gotten out of hand. We spend so much time worrying about what to get people that we don’t stop to enjoy ourselves.

    Plus, my sister has been out of work for over a year and I know money is tight so i think it ould be a good idea to set a limit. We’ll see what we decide on this year. :)

  23. Carol@inthetrenches says:

    All excellent ideas! Thanks. By Thanksgiving most people have already begun shopping or doing the name drawing for the gift exchanges. Better to be proactive than have others proceed and then try to redirect the course.

  24. AndreaS says:

    Mike, hang in there. Just tell you family that this year you will be scaling back and spending, say, no more than $10 per gift. The main thing is to give them advance warning, so that they have the choice to continue to shower you with gifts, or downsize to you level. Over time, most people will downsize to the level of gift they anticipate from you.

    But there is a Part 2. When you give inexpensive gifts, they have to be really great… creative, thoughtful, and worth way more than $10. To succeed in getting others to come along with you, it becomes your responsibility to sell them on this new way of giving. This means you make more of an effort than you might do otherwise. It is a worthwhile investment of your time… not just for this year, but for the coming decades when you (and very one else) will be able to spend less. So maybe it is homemade, or an amazing deal you found on a retail item, or maybe a vintage item you found secondhand. You want to be sure the gift is not seen as just you being “cheap.”

    This is a basic idea that spills out into other parts of our lives. We feel a social obligation to spend as others do, and fear being chastised if we don’t go along. But if you are willing to buck the status quo, you can make a change. You need to just be confident and firm.

    Here’s an alternative example. My daughter married into a family that spends… well, way more than we do. As a family they got into the habit of going out to a restaurant dinner as an extended family EVERY time someone had a birthday. My daughter went along a time or two, but it was adding up. I told her she needed to establish ground rules now, and stop going. She started to decline, and instead suggested potluck gatherings. Fast forward eighteen months. The birthdays at restaurants have almost completely stopped (I can’t remember the last one). This year when it was her husband’s birthday, his mother had a potluck… and also invited all of my clan. The Labor Day gathering was also potluck, and my son-in-law’s grandmother said how much she likes potluck. His aunt has also told me how she wants to “simplify.”

    Often, you will find, that just under the surface there are others who share your feelings, but haven’t yet had the nerve to say no. It just takes one person, and that whole expensive pattern starts to unravel.

  25. Jennifer says:

    I have come to really dislike gift exchanges with anyone but my immediate family. I end up with lots of little things that I do not want and have to figure out what to do with, and the stress/money of having to do the same thing. One side of my family decided to eliminate the gift exchange, and I couldn’t believe how RELAXED it was to get together for a lunch. Everyone really enjoyed it.

    The other side of the family, I have already started suggesting that we eliminate gifts. There are too many kids now, and it has become a true financial burden to purchse for everyone.

    Eliminating gifts makes the holiday emphasis on being together, and adds to my enjoyment immensely, to eliminate some of the gift giving. I agree with some of the above posters, a truly thoughtful and useful gift is always welcome, but do you really need a holiday to give that?

  26. valleycat1 says:

    After marrying into a Jewish family (I am not Jewish), our gift giving at the Christmas holidays has really scaled back. We do enjoy giving a present for under the tree for the children we know, but decide on our own how much additional effort & money we’ll spend for all the adults in our lives. And at my office, we have several people who are struggling financially, so have scaled back on gifts there too, and made it completely optional (we do all enjoy a potluck lunch to celebrate the holiday). In both settings, the first time was a little awkward, but now everyone is comfortable doing their own thing, whether it’s a lot, a little, specific gifts just for those few you’re closest to, or nothing.

  27. Johanna says:

    @Mike: In my family, it’s understood that everyone gives gifts in proportion to what they can afford. If my brother spent less (or more) on me than I spent on him, I wouldn’t be upset. I probably wouldn’t even notice – it’s not like I’m going to look up the prices of the things he gave me and add them all up to see what he spent.

    Maybe you could say something like, “This year, instead of tons of gifts, I’m going to buy one nicer gift per person. I hope no one feels obligated to spend more money or time on gifts for me than they’re comfortable with. Spending Christmas together is the important part.”

  28. Dana says:

    My great aunt has a get together every year with all my extended family, and we only give gifts to the kids. They enjoy it the most and are the easiest to buy for. We still give gifts to my immediate family though.

    In my husband’s family, everyone gives everyone else gift cards or cash. We usually break even between what we’ve given and what we receive. Yay?

  29. HebsFarm says:

    For the last few years, our extended family has taken up the traditional gift-swapping time after the meal with a group game instead. We laugh together and enjoy each other’s company without the stress and expense. Well, there is a little stress for the person who has to plan the game and get everyone to participate (me.) But it’s worth it.

  30. Toni S says:

    After finding out about the pagan roots of Christmas, I decided to opt out of the tradition and I told my family I no longer celebrated Christmas and they no longer had to buy me a gift. They responded by giving me gifts anyway, in spite of my request. I make a point of gift giving throughout the year to the people I care about and I avoid the stress that is usually present during the “holidays.”

  31. Now is also a great time to start savings for the holidays. How many people have a savings account specifically for holiday shopping?

  32. Karla says:

    Breanne, I love that idea! It must be a hoot to see what people come up with.

    I only wish that my family was more open to some of these ideas that involve sharing good fortune with those who haven’t had much luck lately. My great-aunt and I have tried for years to get people to skip the exchange in favor of adopting a family or something of that nature and it’s always voted down. Last year, I participated and asked that my gift be a donation…what I got was cash. So now, my solution is to abstain from that gift exchange.

  33. Amy B. says:

    Good tips in the article, and in the comments. And now, if I can put things into place to avoid the “excessive gift hangover” that usually plagues the holidays.

  34. Jackie says:

    Also I agree with J. Feeling pressure to make a handmade gift sounds like a nightmare to me. Expensive, time consuming, stressful, and results that no one really wants. I’m having flashbacks “oh thank you aunt, for this delightful pink doll thing made out of a roll of toilet papers. I really want this to take up my very limited bathroom counter space.” <- true story

  35. Susanne says:

    If someone actually needed something, I would be the first one buying it. Here’s my opinion of “Secret Sisters” at church: There are so many people in our community who don’t have basic necessities, yet members of our ladies group buy yet another candle or Christmas ornament for each other. As an elementary teacher, I can tell you, nobody needs that many candles, or crystal apples for that matter.
    Early in our marriage, my husband and I were expected to buy Christmas gifts for 23 of his extended family members, 20 of which we only saw that day each year. Years later, when others finally questioned this logic, they started drawing names and we opted out.
    Please forgive my rant. I’m a very blessed, thankful person who prefers to buy my own stuff and useful gifts for others when the time comes.

  36. Molly says:

    Another idea that my two best friends and I started: we shop together for angel tree gifts, essentially taking some money that we would have spent on unnecessary gifts and giving to those less fortunate while getting to spend fun time with friends.

  37. Ashby says:

    I read an article regarding this idea in a magazine a couple of years ago, and sent an email to the friends we usually exchange gifts with. The suggestion was that each family choose a charity or cause that would benefit, and donate to that instead. We had our usual pot luck dinner, and the kids told about the organization thier family had chosen. We did not disclose the amounts, as our group has varying income levels, and some had been unemployed for part of the year. Our teenage sons selected Heifer International, which provides livestock and poultry to low income third world families. Last year they chose our local food bank. This year it will be the holiday party for the children at the local homeless shelter. It’s been a great experience for our teenagers – and eliminated much clutter and “stuff.” Also, the boys are much more interested in giving back to others and have also begun volunteering with us. It’s really time with these friends that we wanted.

  38. Michele says:

    We don’t do gift exchanges for the most part- we just make a donation in the name of the person we want to give a gift to…my parents love to volunteer at their Church food bank, so we donate to their food bank…if we are giving a gift, we pretty much know the person well, and their favorite volunteer organization or charity. If we don’t know them well, we donate to a local charity in their name they could not possibly object to- the food bank, the local Crisis Center, Friends of Pets, something like that. I do the same for work gift exchanges…so far, no one has objected…but I do work at a Church, after all :)

  39. Microfinance India says:

    christamas is celebrated in the hanour of lord yesu christ.he had returned after some spending days. the people gave him a heartly welcome. the christmas celebrate by christmas tree. lighting lamps and etc……
    the christamas gift are the worth of the holiday.

  40. deRuiter says:

    With my close friends (all adults), we get together (with a different person or group each time) for a restaurant meal around the holidays, Dutch treat, and relax wile visiting and eating, instead of buying gifts. A pot luck lunch or dinner would be an option also. Cookie exchanges have been great fun, BUT ANNOUNCE IN ADVANCE “NO CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES” to avoid the ooohing and aaaahing over the lady who brings gingerbread heatrs with white icing and pink sugar crystals because all eleven other guests have brought chocolate chip! We don’t give gifts, none of us need anything. These customs are relaxing, you get to concnetrate on your friends and family, and there’s nothing which has to go into the “yard sale” collection box because you don’t want / need / or like it!

  41. ruth says:

    Love some of the exchange ideas… but at the same time… my family for the last few years have done a version of the unknown exchange (every adult brings a 20-25$ gift for either Male/Female or both depending on which one they are) and then we draw numbers and choose a gift. The problem with this is that It’s gotten so boring now. There are only so many versions of a multi tool or (in my husband’s case a car first aide kit two years in a row lol) So last year we took a vote and this year at my Daughters birthday party (december 1st) we’re going to draw names and then only buy for that person…. with the price limit in place.

    When it comes down to it… with this kind of gift exchange I’d rather have someone specific to buy for than just a random gift that maybe someone will like… plus I then don’t get stuck with a huge gift basket of lavender body stuff that I can never use (allergic) hehe

  42. Kelly says:

    I have a pretty small family. A brother and a sister and three nieces. I buy a gift for all of them.I still exchange gifts with my sister. My brother opted out of this when he married his first wife. But I still get him something because I feel silly NOT getting him a gift.

  43. Karen says:

    Commet #31 – I’ve been having a “Christmas Club” savings account for years – I don’t charge anything. Love love it!!!

  44. Joless says:

    I would love to do this with my Dad and Brother but it’s hard to suggest. We all have everything we want and need, although my Dad does come up with some cool stuff now and again! I’d rather spend time with them than anything else, but since we only see them for xmas every other year they seem to go all out when we do see them (and give pressies on the other years too). Maybe this year I’ll suggest magazine subscriptions. I also don’t want them to think that their previous presents have been unwelcome, because they aren’t! It just would be nice not to have to actually do any buying at christmas, other than for the kids.

  45. Cora says:

    Great article! Best ideas! I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking along these lines..my best gifts to give (coveted by all): homemade raspberry vodka liqueur and lemon balm tincture made from the abundance of lemon balm in my garden! Above all, remember the season for those less fortunate. Give, give, give.

  46. I really like the idea of a potluck or even just going out to dinner to socialize with co workers. So many thoughtful ideas here. Love LoriBeth’s post. That’s a wonderful idea and what family and Christmas is all about.

  47. Jessica says:

    My family purchase gifts for the children and of course our parents. As far as work, we have done Secret Santa in the past.

  48. Robert Wall says:

    I just posted my thoughts on this on my blog; I think the biggest thing with the holidays is the joy of the season. If your gift giving doesn’t make a major contribution to your joy (or the joy of others), it’s time to stop swapping gifts and come up with something that really makes you (and hopefully others) happy!

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